Take it from someone who grew up South Florida, aka theme park heaven: Amusement parks aren't all they're cracked up to be. Oh sure, they supply you with neck-snapping thrill rides and giant barbecued turkey legs, but at the end of the day you're sunburned, $65 poorer, and twice as stupid as when you walked in. The Bay Area, which is loaded with history and science museums, zoos, and other enriching facilities, is a far more enlightened region in which to mature. Nonetheless, there are times when families want something a little more wowza -- and that's just what the Bay Area Discovery Museum has cooked up with the Lookout Cove Opening Festival, a two-day party celebrating the launch of a new theme-park-worthy attraction.
Lookout Cove -- a 2.5-acre outdoor adventure area with a man-made sea cave and tide pools, a downsized replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, a kid-size climbable spider web and birds' nests, and a faux shipwreck where fledgling pirates can dig for treasure -- is the crown jewel in the museum's $19 million expansion project. Understandably, museum officials are celebrating its kickoff with some big-ticket (and very appealing) activities, including performances from the Wise Fool Puppets and the Velocity Circus Troupe, sea chantey singalongs from the Dogwatch Nautical Band, oversize-sea-creature kite-flying, and the chance to help artist Genna Panzarella complete a huge chalk mural of an undersea vista. Make like a sea captain starting at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, 557 McReynolds (at Murray), Sausalito. Admission is free-$5 (or free-$20 per family); call 339-3944 or visit www.baykidsmuseum.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
Berkeley firefighters used to minimize destructive blazes with controlled burns that consumed dried-up grass and foliage. But for the last few springs they've been using a method that's a lot more environmentally friendly -- goats! Nature's vacuum cleaners clear away underbrush cleanly and cheaply, and they're more fun to watch than a lawn mower. See for yourself when the bearded beauties pay a visit to Goat Fest! The fete includes music, games, and the chance to pet a (hopefully fresh-bathed) little ruminant of your own starting at 1:30 p.m. at the Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial & Grizzly Peak, Berkeley. Admission is free-$8.50; call (510) 642-5132 or visit www.lawrencehallofscience.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
A lecture on munching and mulching
Once upon a time, conscientious moms fed their kids ugly fruit. "These are organic nectarines, sweet pea," the moms would say. "They're not pretty, but they're better for us and better for the land they're grown on." The kids complained that the so-called nectarines were totally gross. "Well, someday, organic food will be beautiful and tasty," the moms insisted. "Yeah, right," the kids thought, wishing for Twinkies. But those hippie mamas were absolutely right.
If you're wondering how to eat good (and good-looking) food and avoid fouling up the air and water, consider "Eating to Save the Earth," a book-signing and lecture. Author Linda Riebel talks about new ways farmers, cooks, and manufacturers have devised to get delicious victuals to people without decimating the environment -- or delivering icky nectarines. It begins at 11 a.m. at the Presidio's Crissy Field Center, 603 Mason (at Halleck), S.F. Admission is free; call 561-7752 to register.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Earth-friendly gear to admire
Who stitched the pants you're wearing today? Unless they're homemade or couture, chances are they were pieced together in an overseas sweatshop by a worker who put in 60 to 80 grueling hours at her sewing machine that week. These trousers, are they made of sustainably farmed natural fibers? If not, they're probably composed of factory-farmed cotton and man-made fabrics whose production left behind dangerous environmental residues.
In other words, the clothes you buy and wear have a direct effect on the world, a notion local teens mull over at "Self-Conscious," a fashion show of handmade outfits crafted from scrap materials and used clothing. A miniskirt and vest constructed from old FedEx packaging? AstroTurf shorts? Jewelry made out of old CDs? Playful, but with a serious message. Shop smart starting at 6:30 p.m. at Cell Space, 2050 Bryant (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $5-10; call 561-7751 or visit www.iyel.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
Earth Art 101
The geologic map: Feared by students, ignored by the media, it becomes fine art in the hands of photographer Jonathan Boxerman, who's also a geologist. Catch him and other art-minded scientists at tonight's "YLEM Forum: Art and the Earth," where both Ph.D.s and MFAs showcase work that pays homage to the planet. Among the sights: an otherworldly hunk of lattice rock created by "tafoni" weather processes, transparent "Magic Planet" spherical displays, and pioneering digital photography by Stephen Johnson, who spent seven years shooting breathtaking landscapes at more than 50 national parks. Prepare to be schooled starting at 7:30 p.m. in the Exploratorium's McBean Theater, 3601 Lyon (at Marina), S.F. Admission is free; call (650) 856-9593.
-- Michael Leaverton