Tucson Attractions, A Tourist in my Hometown

This past Christmas I went to my Tucson hometown to see my little sister graduate from college and spend the holidays with my family. While I was there I went to some of my favorite old attractions (Winterhaven, Old Tucson) but I also visited a lot of places I never actually went to when I lived there (Biosphere 2, Kitt Peak, Pima Air and Space Museum). It was lovely to play tourist in my hometown for the week.

Pima Air and Space Museum

We randomly decided to go check out this airplane museum near the air force base, which I’d never thought about going to before. My mom had been there a long time ago but she said that it’s way bigger now. It was stunning how many aircrafts were on display here in a number of different hangers, as well as outside, plus there are exhibits about the space exploration stuff. Really actually quite impressive.

tucson airplane

Biosphere 2

I knew the basics about Biosphere 2 because it was a big deal when it was a living project back when I was a kid. However, I’d never been there to visit. My brother, sister and Dad had been there once before but they said that at the time there wasn’t a lot to see. We went and checked it out and they have formal tours.

You learn a bit about the history of the place. Basically there were two different groups who lived here trying to be self-sustainable inside the mini-earth that it is. There were ups and downs, which are well documented in the writings from those people. Since then it’s become a place for various kinds of research, first under one university, then as a privately owned place and now under the University of Arizona.

It was amazing to see the different environments that are built here under one roof, from a rainforest to a desert climate. And it was cool to see the underground workings of the place. It was neat and worth a visit for sure. Plus it’s a nice long drive out there (north of Tucson) and I got to enjoy lovely desert views, spotted a roadrunner and generally just felt like I was really home again.tucson

tucson travel

Old Tucson

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Favorite Tucson Parks

Last week I wrote about the terrific parks here in San Francisco. At the end of that post I asked if there were great parks in your city. That got me thinking this week about the parks in my hometown of Tucson, Arizona. There are definitely a few that stand out in my memories. I recently visited Tohono Chul Park there for the first time but it’s other parks that I want to talk about here:

Reid Park and Zoo

The big park that immediately comes to mind is Reid Park. This centrally located park is home to Reid Park Zoo, which is the main attraction here. I certainly went there plenty of times, especially since during and after high school my best friend at the time volunteered then worked there. But there is also a lot of other things to see and do in this park and I was there often for those things as well.

For example, this park has a theater area with a stage that is host to a variety of events. I went to Shakespeare in the Park here. I went to the annual Peace Festival a few times here. I remember a few other events that were filled with people, booths and music although I can’t think specifically now what the events were.

There is a rose garden in this park. There is a lake in the middle of this park where we used to go feed the ducks (first me as a kid and then later me with my foster kids and the kids from the group home I worked at). There are a couple of different playground areas and some baseball fields.

Himmel Park

Himmel Park is another centrally located park, much smaller than Reid Park and more of a neighborhood locals park. It’s special to me because there’s a Baskin Robbins near there and my mom would take us there to get ice cream and then play in the park. Later I would take kids I was babysitting to this park to play on the playground. It kept a large metal slide after many Tucson parks got rid of them (because frankly hot metal in a city that gets 100+ degrees every summer was never too bright, but still that slide was fun).

Himmel Park is home to a Himmel Library and this was the library I went to most often as an adult. I took literacy training classes there to learn how to teach an illiterate adult to read. I took the child I tutored here to pick up books to read.

Himmel Park has a historic train car to check out. It has tennis courts. People often play soccer and baseball here. And there is no stage but summer nights sometimes find people putting on plays here. I saw some sort of Shakespeare play here once, possibly MacBeth. More good memories.

Silverbell Park

This park isn’t actually called Silverbell Park but it’s on Silverbell Road and that’s what we always called it. It was the park closest to my parents’ home. It’s where I learned to ride a bike. It’s where my siblings played Little League ball. It’s where we went swimming. It’s where we rolled down what seemed like large hills until we got dizzy and did underdogs on the swings. There is always a large party happening here with someone whose rented a bouncing castle and is barbecuing something. It’s a family park and one filled with activities and memories for me.

This should not be mistaken with the park at Silverbell Lake, which is further north than the park I’m talking about. Silverbell Lake is a nice little manmade lake and there is a great park there. You can fish, I think, and you can walk around. I remember seeing the moon rise here one night in a really cool way. Definitely some good memories at that one as well.

My Childhood Park

Silverbell Park was my childhood park from the age of 5 on but before that we lived in a different part of town and I had another childhood park. I don’t know the name of it. Looking at a Google Map I think it could be La Madera Park but I’m not 100% sure about that. It’s a small park, the kind of corner park that would be easily found today here in San Francisco. But it has memories. It has memories I barely remember because I was so young. And memories I made later when I was chasing my own childhood history and drove over there a few times to journal.

Kennedy Park

This is a large park where concerts are held and other events take place. It’s a big popular party park. I actually never went here as a kid so it doesn’t hold those memories for me. However, it was a place where I often supervised foster children with their siblings and parents when I was a foster parent and a Child Protective Services volunteer so it comes to mind because of the memories I saw there.

Udall Park

This was another park, like Kennedy, that I didn’t really know as a kid. I think it’s possible I’d actually been there before during one of my brother’s many sports games growing up but it didn’t stand out. It is an Eastside park and we lived on the West side. But the group home that I worked at in my early twenties was located near here. On weekends we had to take the kids out of the house for the bulk of the day and we didn’t have money to do anything with them so we often went to parks. This one had a rec center we could sometimes use so this was one we often went to.


San Francisco City Parks

Alta Plaza Park

Last week I wrote a post about the San Francisco parks I had not yet visited but wanted to at some point. I thought I’d put together a list of the parks that I have already been to here. I doubt I can remember all of them that I’ve seen in the seven years since I’ve lived here but I’ll at least roundup the major ones I can recall.

The Big Parks

Japanese Gardens Bridge at Golden Gate Park

I’ll start with the big obvious parks. Golden Gate Park is an amazing park that takes up a huge wonderful chunk of this city. I’ve been to it many, many times for many, many reasons. It includes a lot of attractions that I’ve visited including gardens (rose garden, Japanese tea garden, botanical gardens, Conservatory of Flowers), museums (De Young, California Academy of Sciences), a buffalo paddock, multiple lakes, a roller derby rink, lots of trails … there is just a ton to see here and I feel like I’ve still failed to see it all even though I’ve been there many times.

The other major park in the city that I’ve been to often is Dolores Park. It actually isn’t a very large park but it’s a popular one and big enough to have tennis courts, a large kids’ playground and to be a great place for events. I love the view of the city skyline from this park. And I love the fact that it’s usually sunny here when the rest of the city may not be.

I’ll go ahead and include in this one that park area that consists of Telegraph Hill and the Filbert Street Steps. I don’t know if this is actually considered a park or not but it’s a major tourist attraction, with Coit Tower at the top of it, and I spent a lot of time there when I lived closer to that neighborhood. The gardens along Filbert Steps are beautiful and the view from the top of the hill is amazing.

Easter in Dolores Park

The Small Parks

The city’s small parks that I’ve checked out include:

  • Washington Square Park. This was my neighborhood park when I lived in North Beach. It was a great place to eat gelato in the sun, watch people play Frisbee and take a photo of the nearby church where Marilyn Monroe had her wedding photo taken out in front of at some point in history.
  • Alta Plaza Park. This is my current neighborhood park. It has decent views of the water, some beautiful trees and lots of space to lounge. There’s also a playground and I think there are tennis courts
  • Alamo Square Park. This is the one that adjoins the “Full House” houses and also has a terrific city view.
  • St. Mary’s Square. This is a park in Chinatown built on top of a garage. I have passed it many many times and not really hung out there since moving to the city. However, it has a special place in my heart because I spent time taking some great photos there on a vacation prior to my move to the city.
  • Cottage Row Park. This is a tiny mini-park that doesn’t have a lot to offer but it’s on my way to Japantown so I walk through it and sometimes take photos in the sunlight there.
  • Rincon Park. This is the park that is located near the Ferry Building and has a huge bow and arrow structure in it. One of the dogs I petsit used to go to this park daily before a different dog park opened in that area so I’ve spent a lot of time there. I love the views of the water and bay bridge.
  • Fay Park. This is a small park that’s located in North Beach near Fisherman’s Wharf. It really offers nothing exciting to speak of but it’s a stretch of greenery that I was known to plop down on with some Ghirardelli ice cream on my home from playing tourist.
  • Aquatic Park. It’s a beach, not a park, but I guess it’s considered a park and I’ve been here many times (it’s where I usually watch the 4th of July Fireworks).
  • Lands End Park. This is over by the ocean and is filled with trails, which I’ve actually only hiked one time but should definitely explore further.

Are there great parks in your area?


Point Fermin Lighthouse

Yesterday I shared how my mom and I spent a day at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, California. That same day we also checked out another attraction just a short way away from there – Point Fermin Lighthouse.

Point Fermin Lighthouse History

Point Fermin Lighthouse was built in 1874. It was obviously built for the purpose of guiding boats into the San Pedro Bay. It operated until WWII when the lighthouses on the coast all went dark in order to prevent another attack like Pearl Harbor. The lighthouse was built The Stick Style, which is simpler, earlier version of Victorian architecture. The designer was Paul J. Pelz who also designed five other lighthouse within the same two year span; East Brother in San Francisco Bay and Hereford Light in New Jersey are the only other two still standing.

Point Fermin Lighthouse Visit

Visitors are allowed to come tour the Point Fermin Lighthouse. You can only go up into the lighthouse during a guided tour, which is scheduled a few times each day. Luckily my mom and I got there just in time to take the last tour of the day so we were able to walk through the floors of the home and up into the lighthouse tower where we could see a lovely view of the bay. The lighthouse tour is free with a request for donation.

Point Fermin House

The actual house consists of two different floors that effectively served as entirely separate homes from one another, with their own entrances and kitchens, etc. One floor was for the lighthouse keeper and his family. Fun fact: the first lighthouse keepers were actually women but that quickly changed. The other floor was the home of a second family living on the property although I can’t remember now what the job was of the man in that family.

The home is set up with period furniture and decor so that you can see what it would have looked like during the early nineteenth century when the lighthouse keepers lived there. There are a few displays of photos of the families that lived there and there is a room where you can actually see the light that used to be in the lighthouse when it was active. You can take pictures of the view from the tower room but you can’t take pictures throughout the rest of the house, which is why I don’t have any inside the home to share with you here.

Point Fermin Park

The Point Fermin Lighthouse is located on the grounds of a beautiful park called Point Fermin Park. We didn’t get a chance to look around too much because it was already late in the day when we got there but we did check out a few of the amazing large trees to be seen there.


San Francisco Parks on My To-Visit List

One of my favorite things about San Francisco is that there are thousands of things to see here. I’m going on seven years living here and my “to see” list is just as long as it was when I first moved here. I do lots of things and see lots of things but there is just always more to see and do here. Around every corner is a surprise, a sight, an attraction, a piece of history.

One of the lists I keep going is a list of parks in the city to visit. In addition to the major attraction of Golden Gate Park and the always-sunny, event filled fun of Dolores Park we have all of these great tiny city parks, parks that may only take up a block but offer a terrific view, a friendly neighborhood, a cool tree or something else to see.

I was reminded of this recently because I was going through my computer bookmarks and saw that I’d saved a Curbed SF article on 13 small San Francisco parks. It reminded me that I wanted to look at my own list of parks and make sure to get to some soon.

Allyne Park, image via ParkScan

From the Curbed SF article the park I most want to visit is Allyne Park. It’s a good walking distance from where I live. It is next to the historic McElroy Octagon House, which would allow me to see a second site I don’t think I’ve ever paid any attention to before. And it sounds cute.

Tank Hill Park, image via BCX

The other park that really intrigued me on this list, which I’d never heard of, was Tank Hill Park. It looks like it has great views and a challenging staircase to climb, both things worth checking out in my opinion. I’m pretty sure I’ve never been to this park before so it’s on my list now.

Seward Slides, image via FoundSF

One park that’s not on the Curbed SF list but is on my own personal list is the Seward Mini Park. That’s because it’s home to the Seward Street Slides, which I want to slide down at some point in my San Francisco life. It just sounds like a silly fun thing to do, the kind of silly fun thing that this city is really all about. Apparently the park also includes a community garden with native plants so I really want to do that.

San Francisco Rec and Parks offers and interactive map featuring all of the city’s parks and mini-parks, which I also use to find other parks I might want to check out in areas near where I may be at any given time.


Tucson’s Miniature Museum

I’ve already shared some of my recent Tucson vacation highlights with you, like my visits to DeGrazia gallery and Tohono Chul park but there’s lots more to come. Today I’ll share the fun day my mom and I spent at the miniature museum, which I’d never even heard of until this visit.

My mom in front of the museum; I think their huge door is designed to make you feel miniature!

As the name suggests, this is a museum for all things miniature. I have to admit that I had zero interest in miniatures before going to this museum … but I’ll also be the first to say that the museum sparked an interest in me because of the amazing displays it showcases.

What Are Miniatures

See the tiny violins inside of this real-sized violin? They are all designed so well that they really can be played!

All I really knew about miniatures was that they were tiny replicas of things set up in dollhouse-style displays. While that’s a basic truth, it turns out that there is so much more to this art. I learned lots of amazing things about miniatures from this museum:

  • Miniature objects are done to scale. They are carefully constructed to be genuine to the item they are representing and exact scaled size is important.
  • Miniatures represent historical accuracy. They are designed with a lot of research by the artist to truly reflect the history of the era they depict. There are miniatures for nearly every period of history and these showcases can provide a terrific history lesson.
  • Miniature objects are often created using the same material as the original. So, for example, if a certain kind of wood would have been used then it’s used in the miniature. In some cases a very tiny version of the same material doesn’t look the same, marble was given as an example, and then the miniaturist will use another material that looks as accurate as possible. One item my mom really loved, although sadly my picture of it didn’t come out, was really tiny Waterford crystal glasses with all of the detail in miniature.
  • Miniatures are not always displayed in “dollhouses”. There are many different ways to display miniatures. My favorite section was the display of found objects that had been turned into animated music boxes with miniatures that danced along them.
  • Some miniatures have working parts. Very cool.
  • Miniatures can be whimsical or more realistic. There are very accurate representations of miniature people in their homes and then there are animals and other creatures of fancy. There’s a miniature for everyone!
I couldn’t believe how much there was to see in this tiny museum and I really did learn a lot.

Display Example

Here’s an example of one display:

And here is one detail of a figure within that display:

More About the Miniature Museum

 That’s a miniature garden, a portion of one full display of a home

The actual name of the museum is The Mini Time Machine: Museum of Miniatures. Co-founder Patricia Arnell fell in love with miniatures as a child in the 1930’s and resumed that passion with collecting in the 1970s. The museum has a strong basic permanent collection of miniatures. It is set up with an air of magic (look for fairies!) and an emphasis on showcasing the many different styles and eras of miniatures. The museum also has changing exhibits; the one that was there during my visit was about the use of miniatures in movie-making. Very interesting!

Learn more:

I took lots more photos so expect a follow-up photo rich post from the miniature museum soon!


Golden Gate Park Amazes Me … But I Don’t See It Much

I don’t actually spend as much time in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park as I should. I really love this part of the city. I really love that a city which is so geographically small can support a park that is so big. ( It’s larger than Central Park, I believe.) I just don’t make it over there nearly as often as I ought to.

There’s so much to see in Golden Gate Park that it really requires multiple trips throughout the year to check everything out. I recently compiled a list of twenty things to see in this park and the list doesn’t even scratch the surface of what you could check out there if you wanted to.

My problem is that I don’t trek over to that side of the city very much. It’s really only a few miles away from me but it’s a couple of bus rides to get there and there’s always so much else to do in the city that somehow I manage to miss out on that part of San Francisco a lotl.

The other problem is that I always see the same things when I go to the park. I stick to the limited area around 9th Avenue where there’s a cluster of attractions – the Botanical Gardens, the Japanese Tea Garden, the deYoung museum, the California Academy of Sciences … If I have guests in town then I’ll see a few other major attractions like the windmill and tulip garden. Otherwise, I don’t venture around the park much.

I’ll have to make that a goal for this year – to see and do more in Golden Gate Park!


San Francisco’s Naughtiest Features and Creative Energy

One of the things that I love most about San Francisco is that there is this edge of sexuality in the air everywhere here. It’s not about the sex so much as about the energy. People who study chakras will tell you that sexual energy and creative energy derive from the same place in the body.

And people who study art and creativity will also tell you about this connection because a lot of artists make the mistake of channeling their creative energy into sexuality and then losing their strongest ability to create. What’s great in San Francisco is that you can harness this energy all around you and gain inspiration from it in order to be more creative in your life. Perhaps that’s why there is so much creative energy here.

Just a look at the skyline of the city itself reveals a kind of sexual energy if you’re paying attention. That’s why I was able to come up with fourteen different features or structures in San Francisco that either look like phallic images or resemble a woman’s curves. This city is a beautiful city filled with all sorts of amazing architecture but there’s also something sexy about the shape of that skyline. As I creative person, I love living in such a sexy city!