Monday, January 27, 2014

Family Fun In Downtown Los Altos

Who knew so much fun could be had in downtown Los Altos? My son and I spent several hours exploring there last weekend and found many places worth re-visiting. I will go through some of them here.
Build It Again with Bricks!
Our first stop was at a new store called, Build It Again with Bricks at 398 Main Street. This store is so new that the previous tenant's building sign is still on display; but there is a nice red LEGO sign in the window.  The owner, Karla Oliveira, is friendly and passionate about LEGOS. Not only does her store buy and sell used bricks, they also offer drop off play for kids, building classes and birthday parties. The play area is roomy with natural lighting from a large picture window, and it has an abundance of LEGOS.
Used LEGOS in excellent condition
 Build It Again also has a private room for hosting birthday parties. It is large and has been repainted a bright yellow and green. Parents can buy pizza from Skips Place Pizza right next door and get a 10% discount. I have a feeling this store will become very popular!

Our next stop was at Miyo Yogurt for a much needed snack. This place is hard to find, sandwiched between Starbucks and the Olivia Boutique, but look for it anyway because the yogurt there is delicious! They have many flavors to choose from including my new favorite - salted caramel!

Refortified, we visited the awesome Helix Community Science Center at 316 State Street.
Helix is part of the SF Exploratorium and offers two stories worth of hands-on science play, evening talks, workshops and unique items for sale. Instead of an entry fee, they have a "pay what you wish" admission policy. We spent 30 minutes here but could have easily stayed another hour.  Local journalist Tony Hicks, recently wrote a good article about Helix that describes activities in more detail, so I will be content with just showing you some pictures:
"Touchy-Feely" fun

Magnetic Marvel

Captivating sound

Really cool products
 Also worth looking into, Helix is advertising a special adults only event for Valentine's Day that includes "film screenings, dissection (of a rose), and l'amour," plus chocolate and wine. This is a drop in event - no additional fee!

If you'd like more hands-on action for your children, visit the new Red Racer Hobby Shop at 170 State Street.
Yes, they sell hobby-type products, but the big draw is their custom Slot Car Track that "measures 6 ft wide x 18 ft long with 4 lanes and 72 ft of lap length." For a small fee, your kids will be off and racing.

I discovered one of my favorite stores at our next stop - Know Knew Books. By the way, we did not follow a logical route, just happily wandered, so I wouldn't recommend trying to trace our footsteps!
You never know what treasure you'll find . .
Know Knew Books recently moved from California St. in Palo Alto to 366 State Street. What a difference location makes. This store is large, airy, light and beautiful. The owner, Bill Burruss (friendly and charming man!) prides himself on the quality of used books that are for sale; and he should, I bought a copy of Inheritance by Christopher Paolini that looked brand new but sold for half price.  Not only do they buy and sell quality used books, they also sale vintage jewelry and artistic greeting cards. But most important, the owner wants everyone to know that Know Knew Books is freely available for community gatherings, such as musical recitals, poetry readings, artistic displays, etc. He wants the store to be a gathering place, which is why they stay open till 9pm each night. I just might do some storytelling there!
Welcoming front lobby

 Speaking of book stores, I must not forget a downtown classic - Linden Tree Books at 265 State Street.
A great place to hang out
They are a children's book store that hosts many community events, author events are a favorite. They also have a fantastic staff that can make book recommendations based on a child's age group and particular tastes. I highly recommend them.

Finally, we come to my son's personal favorite - Area 151 at 151 First Street.  This old fashion, yet modern arcade, was a wonderful surprise. It is fun, clean and safe.
An arcade downtown - who knew?
Area 151 has traditional games like skeeball and air hockey plus modern games that use "state-of-the-art technology." Players win tickets that can be traded in for a prize or put into a savings account - there is no expiration.  Weekend evenings they sell popcorn and offer a "Double Token Happy Hour." They even have a special offer for "stellar students. What's not to love?

Hard to resist

Retro delight

10 free tokens and a popcorn for an 'A' grade!

 There are many wonderful stores and restaurants in downtown Los Altos, too many to mention, but I wanted to show these two windows just because I thought they were cool:
Los Altos Town Crier's bell collection

Does your child know what a typewriter is?

 I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and that it inspires you to visit downtown Los Altos and support their community building efforts!

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