Things to Do in California With Kids
One-of-a-Kind Attractions in California
There is so much to do in California with kids. There are theme parks with rides and other fun items—LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, Disneyland in Anaheim, and Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, to name just three.
There are hands-on science centers in San Diego, Santa Ana, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. There are harbor tours leaving from more than one city. There are professional sports teams playing several different sports whose games you can watch.
There is one place offering tethered helium balloon—not hot air balloon—rides. There is one city with a cable car museum.
Let’s go on a virtual visit to two unique attractions—unique not just to California—unique to all of the United States…the Orange County Great Park Balloon in Irvine in Southern California and the cable cars of San Francisco in Northern California.
Orange County Great Park Tethered Helium Balloon Ride
Orange County Great Park, Irvine
When Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Toro in Irvine, California was decommissioned several years ago, there was much debate regarding the base’s future use. In 2002, voters approved a $1.1 billion project for the creation of a county park which would use 1347 acres (5.45 km²)—28.8%—of the former base’s land. The park, which will be larger than Central Park in New York City (863 acres), Golden Gate Park in San Francisco (1017 acres), or Balboa Park in San Diego (1200 acres), will include performing arts venues, a lake, a canyon, a corridor connecting a wildlife area in a national forest with one in a wilderness area, lawns, a botanical garden, and an air museum.
The park’s first attraction, the Great Park Balloon Ride—designed by Aerophile SA, a French company specializing in building tethered helium balloons—opened on July 14, 2007. The second attraction, the Kids Rock Playground, opened on July 10, 2010.
Thursday and Friday
10:00am to 3:00pm, 7:00pm to 10:00pm
Saturday and Sunday
9:00am to 3:00pm, 7:00pm to 10:00pm
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
Orange County Great Park Balloon Ride
The balloon built by Aerophile SA, the French company specializing in building tethered helium balloons, is one of the largest balloons of its kind in the world, and the first of its kind in the United States.
There is no cost for the balloon flight. Parking—there is a fee—and registration for the flights opens 30 minutes before the day session begins and one hour before the night session begins.
Registration waivers must be obtained at the Great Park’s Visitors Center and signed by every potential passenger prior to a boarding pass being issued.
There are no height, age, or health restrictions for people wanting to take a balloon flight. The fights are all wheelchair and electric conveyance vehicle accessible.
220,000 cubic feet
Maximum number of passengers
Steel cable with strength of 99,000 pounds
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Cable Cars, San Francisco
The cable car system is San Francisco is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)—the federal government’s official list of buildings, structures, objects, sites, and districts which the government feels should be preserved due to their historical significance.
The cable cars are the only mobile national monument in the world and the world’s last manually operated cable car system.
Only three lines of the 23 lines established between 1873 and 1890 remain—the Powell and Hyde Streets line, the Powell and Mason Streets line, and the California Street line. The California Street line, pictured in the photograph to the right, is the oldest cable car line in existence.
Cable Car Museum
The Cable Car Museum, established in 1974, is located in the historic Washington and Mason line cable car barn and powerhouse. The barn is where the cable cars are housed when not in use. The powerhouse is what drives the cables which enable the cars to travel up and down the steep hills in San Francisco.
Three antique cable cars from the 1870s can be seen in the museum. A photograph of one of the three, Sutter Street Railway Company Trailer Car Number 54, is pictured to your right.
There is a viewing area from which you can see the cables entering the building through a channel in the street and a second viewing area from which you can see the wheels which pull the cables. On display are various mechanical devices involved with the cable car system, tools, pieces of track, and pieces of cable.
The museum is open every day of the year except New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
April 1 to September 30
10:00am to 6:00pm
October 1 to March 31
10:00am to 5:00pm
Location, Admission Fee, Accessibility
Cable Car Museum
1201 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Telephone: (415) 474-1887
Admission is free.
A ramp and elevator for disabled visitors are located on the Washington Street side of building.
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