Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dinosaurs, Art and Broken Trolleys in Balboa Park

Balboa Park is one place I love to visit whenever I am in San Diego. The buildings sport fabulous architecture, there are gorgeous plants and trees everywhere, and enough museums, art galleries, shops and open spaces for picnics and playing that we could probably spend a couple of days there.
I never have a couple of days to spare though, but we did just spend a lovely afternoon there while visiting family on our learning adventure in Southern California.
While it took my father a painfully long time to get away from the laptop and cell phone and into the car so we could actually go, my children did get to witness first hand where their mother inherited her genetic pattern of chronic lateness from.
Finally, we arrived, and started off exploring a village full of artists with sculptors, wood carvers, jewelers, painters, photographers and textile artists. Some were working on site. Others just had their work for sale, but it was like a cool little museum in itself.

Unfortunately, the botanical building was closed the day we were there. It houses a wonderful collection of orchids that always makes me wish I didn't kill expensive plants in the way that I do. We did enjoy the lily ponds, and the Timken Art Museum. The lovely display of Russian iconic art on display perfectly fit into our recent learning spree about Russia. We'd just finished reading the fifth book in The 39 Clues series, in which the characters adventurous clue hunting takes them all over Russia, and had been gobbling up Russian culture and history for a few weeks prior to our trip. It's wonderful when opportunities that seem so perfect for what we've been doing just drop into life like that. Unbelievably, the Timken is also free. It's small, but does have a wonderful collection that includes Rembrandt.
Next, we took the free trolley ride through the park. Our driver was one of those friendly type who gives a little talking tour of the sites and events as you go around, even helping a slightly confused elderly passenger find her car. As soon as we were pulling into our final stop, we heard a loud an frightening "thunk" sound. The metallic crunch made me a little nervous that our trolley had run over a wheelchair or a stroller or something, and the poor driver looked a little nervous too. We all hopped out and saw that we had experienced another technical malfunction (and wondered if this was going to be a pattern on our public rides after our Disneyland trip.) Thankfully, we hadn't squished or even bumped into anyone. It looked to me like the trolley had lost a wheel, but my husband said that actually something or other with a ball bearing or a wheel bearing or something like that had broken. (Mechanic speak usually sounds like wuuh wuuuh wuuh waaah - sort of like the teachers on Charlie Brown to me, but I think our Boy Child caught something out of it.) In any case, we weren't going to be driving any further on the trolley that day, but we were already at our stop anyway, so the timing was actually not bad.

The afternoon was winding down, and so was our time to catch any more museums before they closed for the day, so we hurried over to the Natural History Museum. It's another that belongs to the science museum association, so we got free admission with our membership cards rather than the $10 to $14 door price. They had an amazing exhibit on dinosaurs going. We only had about an hour before they closed and kicked us out, but could have easily spent a couple hours exploring this great exhibit of fossils, replicas, and interactive displays. It was a very worthwhile stop indeed, and we learned a ton.

When we returned to visit relatives later that evening, I got a few more inquiries on whether or not we were doing any homeschooling on our trip. Of course, we're homeschooling all the time- the world is our classroom, but I know, this is a hard concept for most people to grasp. Schools can take field trips and have fun learning occasionally, we just tend to do the fun stuff an awful lot. Nevertheless, it seems to be working. The kids came home jazzed about dinosaurs, not because I had planned it, or it was on the standards, but because we came across a really cool display of them, and they got to explore it.
 It was another great day of life learning in action.

Does anyone have any other San Diego or Balboa Park must see places / things? I'd love to hear about them, since I know we'll be be back again.